Incredibly, for a show that’s not even two seasons old, The Big Bang Theory is already shown in over 40 countries around the world – seemingly the language of ‘geek’ is gobal. It would also seem that the simple tale of the guy (or guys), who can’t get the girl, and the hot stuff next door is also universal.
If you haven’t seen it, the show revolves around Leonard and Sheldon, a pair of Ph.D. geniuses, who work together at the California Institute of Techonology (referred to as “Caltech”) and also share a flat (filled with geek ephemera) across the corridor from aspiring actresses but actual waitress, Penny. Throw in a couple more geeks, Howard Wolowitz and Rajesh Koothrappali, and that’s pretty much The Big Bang Theory.
At first glance the show can seem like a tired, formulaic, studio-based (gasp!) sitcom. And this was certainly how I initially viewed Big Bang, a sort of cheaper, not-as-good version of The IT Crowd, but after just a few episodes I began to get sucked in by this character based gag-a-thon.
There’s no re-inventing of the wheel going on here, it’s just a straightforward sitcom that, on the surface, is aimed at the nerdoid contingent of our planet. Yet, its appeal has crossed that boundary as audience figures will attest (unless there are more geeks on this planet than I thought), mainly, I would argue, down to the superb cast.
Johnny Galecki (who, up until now, was primarily known for playing Darlene’s hubby in Roseanne) plays Leonard with much heart and imbuing sympathy every time he fails with the ‘hottie’ Penny or finds himself in an utterable position with his flatmate and best friend, Sheldon, played with expert nerdosity (is that a word?) by Jim Parsons. His OCD-esque behaviour will annoy as well as amuse, especially when he reveals he gets up every Saturday morning at 6.15am to watch Doctor Who on BBC America (though, if I may be permitted to be equally as geeky, BBC America at the time did not show Doctor Who at the time of broadcast; it now does though – but not at 6.15am). They make a very believable pairing and bicker like a couple of twenty years.
Their fellow colleagues Wolowitz, played with supreme sleaziness by brilliant Tom Cruise impersonator, Simon Helberg (check him out in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip), and Koothrappali who cannot talk any time a ‘hot’ girl comes along (neatly balancing out Wolowitz’s overtly sexual antics).
Together these guys argue, sorry, “discuss” hot topics such as the durability of Superman’s clothes, which reminded me in part of a similar discussion in Seinfeld. In another episode they even use condiments in a nod to the classic Jerry Seinfeld (a huge Superman fan) sitcom. Another amusing Superman moment came when the girl next door, Penny, asks, “How many Superman movies are there?” evoking derision and disbelief from the boys. This reminded me of a girl who asked me some time ago, “What Star Wars film was Harrison Ford in?” And this was pre-prequels!
Big Bang is peppered with geek references of all sorts from superheros (Green Lantern, the Flash) to Star Wars (an hilarious reference to a Luke Skywalker No More Tears shampoo) to well-placed mentions of Comic-Con. But knowledge of these facets is not important, it’s the interpersonal relationships that make these gags what they are. My favourite episode, of the first season, The Nerdvana Annihilation, concerned the boys buying a replica of the time machine, from The Time Machine(1960), and sharing it. Now, it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the film or not as the laughs are there regardless (though if you have, you’ll laugh harder). I was also amused to note a Dalek placed in the background of this story.
There are some negatives, though. If I were being ultra critical I would say that these guys are a bit too good looking to be believably considered as real geeks (not these new “geek-chic” ones you get). And if someone could tell the studio audience to calm down, that would also please me – they are a bit too enthusiastic for my liking. A bit of decorum, please!
The first season is a great journey, building up episode to episode. Whilst never outrageously hilarious (though Season Two is hitting that) it’s gentle to begin with and always chuckleworthy. The makers of Big Bang have been sensible enough to let the characters breathe and have not revealed much about their backgrounds, allowing for more, and differing, adventures to come. I would have whole-heartedly recommended buying this collection if it wasn’t for the brain-bashingly poor….
Extras Considering the nerdoid nature of the show (and the fact that commentaries for BSG get a mention in the show), it’s shocking, nay offensive that this set is so bereft of special features. All there is one little featurette that consists of interviews with the main players and some clips. The only bit of interesting material was the fact that the equations and formula you see on the boards are real. Harumph, real let-down. I can only hope that when it comes to the Season Two set the producers will address the balance and laden us with commentaries, interviews, deleted scenes, outtakes (come on, there must be some!) and easter eggs. But, until then, you get nada (almost).
5 February 2009